Californian Poem by Brian Teare

Californian



It began like this : a radio
midday, heat—remember?—a shriek
on the highway, and in the yard
Steller's jays chafing over haggle, nag, their claims
a lyric tableau—pretty for the eye—how
sun for months stuck aureoles
of chrome around everything, even
your poems, omens
so no other disaster would happen.
But that there was dust—
it had not been so before in June,
grass dead at edges
where a dirt spread had begun, feral
cats interring piss into nasturtiums.
His death had become
the dropped side of a song, melody
undone by damage
exactly the feel of teeth entering
an apple's bruise. The trellis kept
the jasmine rapt
as it collapsed in its own odor; so ardor also
trained the spine
of your weeping into a mind,
confluence of fumes and confusion. Over sills,
jambs, silt sent collusion : thistle, burr, mouse
turds, urine's lingering funk in rooms
where to write was a widow
alone with the last broom she'd bought. Heat,
with its missing finger
and nine filed nails, tuned all afternoon
its blue note : horizon a slack string tautening
against asphalt, whose sound
was drought, marsh departed
before August began, black-outs rolled
house to house, how perfect the fraud and emergencies.
So there were two songs
sung in counterpoint
to jays, argument about belonging to
a place,—remember—
prey and prayer, one struck
the other beneath the lyric image, playing flint
to tinder until on the radio
eastern hills caught fire : extremis,
excelsis, that is
how summer, all veils
and exhalations, courted the hills. How
already the church was burning
when your soul went out to meet him, to marry
his new weather

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